Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Word Up!

I was slacking off, watching TV and one of those infernal commercials came on; a couple are painting a room, they touch hands, and the background dissolves into a panoramic forest vista with a bed or tub. Yeah, a Viagra commercial. For... ahem... a malfunction. My son giggles- "It's dysfunction," he informs me. Dysfunction, misfunction, malfunction; what's the diff? According to Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, circa 1983 (one of those big jabonies that weighs a gazillion tons which I refuse to give up because the online and Microsoft dictionaries are seriously lacking):

Dysfunctionn. Med., malfunctioning, as of a structure of the body.

It appears dysfunction and malfunction maybe the same thing. That's common in English, multiple words meaning the same thing (think Thesaurus).

Malfunction: n. failure to function  properly: v.i. to fail to function properly.  Same definition, but it looks like dysfunction applies strictly to medical issues. Okay, the body can have a dysfunction, while the car can have either (noun) a malfunction of the engine, or, (verb) the engine malfunctioned.

Misfunction / Disfunction Uh, no such words. At least as of 1983. And having made Webster's my literary lord and master, I will never use these two words. Ever. And neither should you. We have enough clutter, slang, anachronisms, abbreviations, made-up, ill-,  improperly or inappropriately used words in our language. So don't. It really annoys me. And you do not want me to hear you use the word 'irregardless.' (I will need a sedative or other serious chemicals to rein in my outrage.)

At least I know the makers of Viagra are using proper English. Hopefully Johnson & Johnson (my maiden name is Johnson, but no relation. Darn, could really use the fame and money), will take note and forever eradicate their slogan "It don't ouch me" on their bandage commercials. [Kindly note that I did not say 'Bandaid' which is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson. If I can observe the proprieties, so can they.] 

So my knowledge of dys- vs. mal- function has been refreshed, and two plausible but non-existent words abolished from my memory. Now if only I could obliterate all those 'dysfunction' commercials.

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